Sound Ideas: Eddie Kenneally - By Esther Marr

 (Originally published in the January 21, 2012 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)

Trainer Eddie Kenneally is known around backstretches for his hard work and horsemanship. But it is the Irishman’s passion for the sport that makes him a standout to Summerplace Farm owner Jack Lally.

“Eddie said to me one day, ‘I’m smart enough to make more money than I make training horses, but every morning at 4:30 a.m. when I pull on my boots and go to the racetrack, I know I’m doing the right thing, because I love the game,’ ” said Lally, whose Heavenly Landing notched her third straight victory and first stakes score in the Jan. 7 Marshua’s River Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park while in Kenneally’s care.

Kenneally, who has been training horses for the Lallys for more than 15 years, has five horses at Palm Meadows Training Center this winter for the family operation, which consists of Lally; his wife, Louise; daughter, Dana; and son, Timothy.

When asked why he has kept his horses with Kenneally for so long, Lally explained, “Eddie is a hands-on guy…he doesn’t ask the riders once they come back how well (the horses) are doing; he’s out there watching.

“He’s just a very fine person, period. He’s a good horseman, he runs a great shedrow, and he has very good people working for him.”

Kenneally was born into a horse family. His father had field hunters, while his uncle, John, was a jockey in Ireland who later became a trainer. Kenneally’s brother, Johnny, operates Erinvale Thoroughbreds, one of the largest consignors in Australia.

Eddie Kenneally relocated from Ireland to the United States in 1987 to work with sales yearlings at Pegasus Stud. Following a stint as an exercise rider and an assistant trainer, Kenneally became a private conditioner for Jack Kent Cooke’s Elmendorf Farm and then opened his public stable, Kenneally Racing, in 1997.

This year Kenneally has around 30 horses in training at Palm Meadows with another 15 stabled in New York. He recently made a decision to start keeping a stable year-round in the Empire State because of its improved purse structure.

His core group of owners includes Homewrecker Racing, Avalon Farm, and Windmill Manor Farm. Kenneally saddled Bushfire to win the 2006 Ashland, Acorn, and Mother Goose stakes (all gr. I) for Homewrecker, and trained grade II winners Buckleupbuttercup and My Jen for Avalon and Windmill Manor, respectively.  

The Lallys helped deliver one of the high points of Kenneally’s career when their gelding Kelly’s Landing won the 2007 Gulf News Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I). Retired in 2009, Kelly’s Landing now serves as Kenneally’s lead pony.
“We’ve been fortunate to have some quality horses in our stable,” said Kenneally. “That’s what it takes to win the better races.”

Kenneally said one way his stable sets itself apart is that he is quick to turn out young horses when they’re not physically or mentally prepared for his training program.

“We don’t wait until it’s too late to turn horses out if they’re immature or slow-developing,” said Kenneally. “We like to give them breaks when they first show they might benefit from it. We’re fortunate our owners all want to do the right thing. It benefits everybody, because they’ve got a better, sounder horse when it comes back in.”

Kenneally took this approach with Heavenly Landing, and it’s clearly paid off. 

“She’s got pedigree, conformation, and so we had high expectations for her from the beginning,” said Kenneally, who helped Lally pick out the daughter of Pulpit from the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale. Consigned by Gainesway, agent, Lally bought her under his Summerplace banner for $340,000.

When Heavenly Landing broke her maiden impressively on the main track at Saratoga during the summer of her 2-year-old season, Kenneally decided to focus on a dirt campaign. Following a few setbacks during Heavenly Landing’s sophomore year, however, Kenneally gave the filly several months off. She raced just once during the summer of 2010, then returned to the track the following February. 

“When she came back from her layoff, she trained just as well, she just didn’t run as well on the dirt,” said Kenneally of the filly, who was winless in her first five starts back.

“Because her pedigree also suggests turf, we opted to experiment with turf and see if that would change things around with her,” Kenneally continued.

Sure enough, Heavenly Landing won an allowance race on the Keeneland turf in October in her first attempt on grass, followed by another turf victory at Churchill Downs in November.
“The rest is history…she’s found a new home on the grass, she’s three-for-three, and it looks like she could continue to do well on the grass,” said Kenneally.

Her most recent triumph in the Marshua’s River not only reaffirmed Heavenly Landing’s affinity for grass but also the keen eye Kenneally possesses in spotting the needs of the horses in his care and the effectiveness of his patient and persistent style.

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